Changeless

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours

of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and

chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for Compline, The Book of Common Prayer
Full of contradiction, I am buoyed
by the blossom of change in the trees yet
wearied
by the clock's relentless chime.
Burdened by the weight of change
and the wait for change alike, I am
entangled in the too much too little of days and months.
No clock marks His coming hour,
nor days mar His face.
O beauty ancient and new:
blossom me eternal in You.

Till We Have Our Faces Back

First you will learn about smiles,
how much you smile,
what's contained in a smile,
what's implied in the different degrees of smile:
in a curl of the lip at a funny thought,
in the mouth's outstretched corners
to greet the close acquaintance,
in the sardonic phrase,
the empathic moment.
All these things you will learn
when they cannot be seen.

And eyes. You will learn about eyes.
How readily you can recognise eyes
across a courtyard or carpark, how
much you can guess of a heart or a day
from the eyes poking out above the nose.

And breath. You will learn about breath.
You will taste it, smell it, absorb it all day.
You will choose your words and your silence to preserve
moments when you can simply breathe.
You will long to stand
in the garden
beside your office
and do nothing
in that afternoon air
but take off your mask and breathe.

And faces - you will catch, in their absence,
the beauty, the wonder of faces,
the heart-catching, God-splendoured glory of faces.
You will long for the faces
that you loved and despised,
will search the room for these faces,
will wish that these faces
could transfigure their otherness straight into yours.
You will cover your face
and stifle your breath
and halve your smile
in hope of the day,
to work for the day,
when all of our faces are back.

Werribee Dragonfruit

Strange to be flourishing so far afield;
its home is equatorial, tropical,
not here, among suburban paddocks,
with a straight line down to Antarctica.
Yet, while silver birch weeps
and quince decks boggy ground with its midwinter yellow,
this Malaysian friend greets me with
loud, audacious pink,
asserting its brilliant right to exist,
here, far from home:
fruitless, pointless,
its only purpose to be,
to glory,
and beautifully so.

And who is my neighbour?

Love, sensing Self flex muscles,
Circumvents the question, takes a detour
Along a Jericho road,
A thoroughfare often taken, seldom observed.

Love stretches the story out,
Beyond expectation, beyond our trust,
Defeats its stock of righteous men,
Then surprises with a foe.

Love befriends the enemy,
Gives face and heart to the hated one.
Love helps us up the donkey's back,
Carries us safe, far from home.

Love takes flexed muscles, unflexes them,
Unwinds Self's tautly wrought syntax.
Wrong question, Love says. True question is:
Whose neighbour am I?
Van Gogh, The Good Samaritan

Holy Mess

Sanctify the compost heap
where I trudge in dark with the day's dank scraps.
Sanctify the living stench,
soil's second chance,
barren fig-tree's friend.

Sanctify the dishes piled
on piles around the cluttered sink.
Sanctify the time it takes
to scrub and dry,
to sort and stack.

Sanctify numb fingers, ice
on windscreen that delays the day,
brittle tests when patience is small.
Sanctify mess,
sanctify time.

Sanctify unholy pain;
sanctify this senselessness
that drives me to the end of me
and sends me to Your feet.

Les Feuilles Mortes – digital copies available now!

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a mad flurry of activity as I’ve worked on getting my new book Les Feuilles Mortes together and ready for you to have in your hands. The physical copy should be ready soon to buy from Lulu.com – by the end of May – but you can now buy a digital copy of the book for just $10 AUD via The Consolations of Writing. All your money will go to Tear Australia’s work supporting developing countries to combat COVID-19.

Click here to get your copy, and watch a teaser for the book here. I’m also looking forward to the online book launch, on a date soon to be confirmed. I hope you can join me. It’s been a real community event getting together friends from across the world involved in this project, and I’m excited to share it with you all soon.

Other Ways to Practise Resurrection, Or, How to Beat a Pandemic: After Wendell Berry

When others horde, share.
When others sneeze, do not be startled.
When the numbers rise, take heart.
For your life is more than your days on earth
and your planet is more than a virus.

When the shops are packed with people and
the shelves are emptied of products, do not
push and shove and hate the man
who found the tissues that you missed.
For your life is more than tissues.

When cupboards are jammed with tins and cans
and only wholemeal pasta’s left,
rejoice that you’re forced to eat healthier stuff,
and go plant some veggies so that when they yield
you can take some to your elderly neighbours.

Buy bulbs to plant in autumn soil
so that, when this is over, you can see spring arise.
Watch the news, but do not fret.
Pray more than you scroll through Twitter feeds.
Share your toilet paper.

Coronavirus, with OCD

Wash your hands; don’t touch your face.

Did I wash my hands, and did

I touch my face after? Before?

Don’t be afraid but be aware.

Wash your hands; don’t touch your face.

These sightless microbes swim in air.

Your nose is dripping. Touch your face.

Wash your hands. Don’t be afraid.

It all may come to nothing; don’t

Touch your face. Now wash your hands.